| by Kelly Ribera |
I’ve lived most of my life with my weeks punctuated by church. Wednesday nights and all of Sunday (when you subtract the big supper midday) in a wooden pew at church. It was pretty much my job, or at least my dad’s job because he was, and is, a pastor.
I would say as an adult that I’ve grown, for lack of a better word, to be disenchanted with the whole thing. It’s not the days that turned into months that turned into years of time spent there, it’s the not the endless march of potlucks, or the awkward summer church camps, it’s the feeling I had of being watched my whole life.
Being the daughter of a pastor entitles you to a lifetime of other people’s opinions… or at least a lifetime of 18 years and I’m out of here to a liberal arts college and I’m never looking back. The moment I decided to attend a “worldly” university to get an “English” degree shocked about half the population of my tiny hometown. My dad listened to advice from several members of his congregation, foremost was a man who owned hundreds of properties and had so much wisdom at his disposal that he felt it was his job, nay, his duty to speak against my attending a non-Christian school- because what else does a man with so much money and world experience do with his time? Thankfully my father didn’t care, but I was intrigued.
After my first year of college which consisted of going to all my classes, hiding a single bottle of Coors light I found too disgusting to drink in my dorm fridge for months, going to a frat party with watered down beer, attending a single football game, and doing lots of other riveting things, I found myself invited to spend the day with “Rich Christian” or “RC” as I will now call him, and his wife. I had no idea that I would soon become part of his own personal social experiment.
The black Cadillac arrived and I sat in the back, unable to keep from sliding across the leather seats as he turned corners, despite being buckled in. His wife made smalltalk, a very kind and sympathetic soul, as we drove to a nearby mall. I was promptly given a crisp hundred dollar bill and told to go shopping as his wife was doing the same thing. Good deal, right? I found a skirt and a pair of shoes and was all set. I had spent it all.
Now, let’s play a little game called: “What was supposed to happen?”
- a) I should not have spent any of it.
- b) I should have spent some of it, but not most of it, showing that I care more about saving than spending.
- c) I should have found some “buy 2 get 7” sale and purchased as much product as I could, with no concern about quality.
- d) None of the above. I could not win, no matter what.
The answer is “d”. I’m pretty sure. When we all met back up and I told RC what I’d purchased, courtesy of him and very grateful, he looked surprised that it was even possible to spend a hundred bucks in an hour when told to do so. He scoffed and his wife whispered, “he doesn’t really understand how much things cost” and I thought about how nice it probably was to be married to him. All that money, and an arched eyebrow when a small portion is spent, even when it’s gifted.
After dropping off his wife to get her hair done, RC announced that we were going to a business lunch. I briefly wondered if I was being sold into some sort of slavery, what other purpose could I serve for a business meeting? My fears abated when I remembered that my parents told me to go on this day trip and to accept what was offered. I resolved to be brave.
We walked into a diner and met a young businessman in a nice suit. We sat at a table and ordered our food. Diners are nice and unassuming places to conduct sales of women or other more tangible forms of property like land and buildings.
I quietly ate my meal and listened to the men speak about a property RC was interested in purchasing. He had a rate much, much lower than what the young man had been hoping for in mind. The man interjected stories about his grandfather and what he had wanted to do with the land. RC, himself an older gentleman, appeared not to be fazed in the least, now that the grandfather was dead, what could he do with the property?
By the time I ordered a slice of apple pie, after being told that I needed to order dessert, RC had talked the guy down to exactly where he wanted. I speared each bite of pie feeling depression kick in. I would have paid more than a hundred bucks to not be a part of that business lunch, as some accessory to the crime. I would have paid to not have my purchases judged by some guy (when I could have just made them on my own, I had money of my own!), and to not realize that that is how so many people become wealthy- by talking other, weaker people down. I, by proxy, felt weak myself.
The young man left and RC ordered a slice of pie. He told me he didn’t like it. The apples weren’t cooked enough. They should have been softer. I told him I’d make him a pie sometime while, at the same time, kicking myself for saying it. Despite it all, I cared what he thought of me. It bothered me that he felt like he could tell me I had spent money poorly, that he felt I had chosen the wrong school to go to, and that he told my dad exactly what he thought of him, too. A wealthy old man with unfounded wisdom to share is one of the most dangerous people I can imagine.
He dropped me off at school. His wife waved goodbye and I waved back. When I visited home a month later, I did bake him that pie and wrote a thank you note for the day we spent together. The apples weren’t really done, and I’m pretty sure he threw the entire thing out. And he never said thank you back.